Breaking down Measure V

In the order of appearance in Measure V, here is an explanation of each section:

Taxes: The city charter currently allows the city to tax property owners to meet its bond payments and its retirement benefits for city employees, to pay for libraries and for some limited other purposes.

Prop. 13, the 1978 state initiative that limits property taxes, appears to nullify this portion of the city charter (enacted in 1966), but City Atty. David Hunt says that there are exceptions in Prop. 13 that would allow the City Council to levy most of these additional property taxes.

Voting yes would eliminate or modify the charter sections that allow for these taxes.

Oil drilling: The current city charter allows oil drilling in certain portions of West Newport, including on 466 acres of Banning Ranch. Hundreds of active or abandoned wells dot the Banning property, which is slated for a large residential development, pending environmental and other approvals.

A portion of the Banning property would be left as open space under development plans. The Banning Ranch Conservancy would like the entire property to be open space. This charter amendment would spell out which areas would be permitted for oil drilling moving, including some city-owned wells.

Voting yes would restrict oil drilling to 20 acres near West Coast Highway in the Banning Ranch property, and would require a public vote to expand the region. It gives the property owners 10 years to move the wells. Also, it would prohibit offshore drilling, but the state already has offshore drilling restrictions.

Legal notices: The charter requires that the city publish the text of each ordinance in a local newspaper. City officials have said this practice costs too much money, and that they can satisfy state law by publishing just the title and summary, with the full ordinance available online, at the library and at City Hall.

Voting yes would eliminate the requirement that the city publish its full ordinances in the newspaper, and would allow it to just publish a title and summary, according to state laws.

Franchise procedures: When companies want to provide services to multiple users in a city, such as business waste haulers or cable television providers, they have to get approval from the City Council and undergo a series of steps set forth in the charter. The process can take up to three months. City officials say this is too long and inhibits some companies from doing business in the city, thus stifling competition.

The municipal code, a separate document, also has rules concerning franchises. If the city uses those it would be able to grant franchises faster, while still adhering to state guidelines.

Voting yes would allow the city to award franchises faster than it can now, potentially increasing the number of waste-haulers, for instance, and increasing competition for residents' and businesses' services.

Bid thresholds: When the city begins a public works project, such as building the garage at the new Civic Center or grading land for a new park, it must solicit bids. Right now, the minimum threshold for such a bid is a project worth $30,000 or more. Below that, the public works department can award contract without the formal process. The threshold is much lower that the state minimum $125,000, and the city recommends raising it to $120,000.

Voting yes would allow the city to award public works contracts without the formal bidding process. It could save taxpayer money by reducing staff time and paperwork. Public works projects would still have to be budgeted and approved by the City Council.

Misdemeanor penalties: As it stands, anyone who violates a section of the city charter is prosecuted for a misdemeanor crime. The city would like more flexibility in prosecuting individuals, and would like to amend the charter to allow for greater leeway when someone violates a city law (an ordinance) or a charter section.

Voting yes would allow the city to prosecute violators of the charter with a civil lawsuit, an administrative citation or as a misdemeanor. Violators of city ordinances could be punished by a misdemeanor or an infraction, which is similar to a traffic ticket.

Redistricting: Every four years, the City Council must appoint a citizens' committee to study how the council districts are drawn, and if they should be modified to reflect changes in population. Apparently, this hasn't been happening consistently, and the city wants to change the process to every 10 years, when the census data is released.

Voting yes would spread out the requirement to study redistricting from four years to 10 years. It could save taxpayers in the form of staff time and other resources needed to manage a redistricting commission.

Civil Service System: Many of the city's employees are governed under something called the Civil Service System. The charter and city ordinances spell out in great detail how someone under this system can be recruited, hired, reprimanded and fired, among other actions. City officials say that they are hampered by cumbersome recruiting practices and other outmoded employment procedures. They would like to "streamline" the process, while retaining the rights of its employees, officials say. 

Also, the city wants non-civil service employees (those appointed by the city manager or the City Council) to be able to fill in for the police and fire chiefs, who are not in the civil service system. As it stands, the next person in command is in the civil service system, and would not be able to take direction from the city manager or the City Council if the chief was incapacitated for some reason.

After negotiations with the city's unions, the charter reform commission drafted new rules for the Civil Service System and proposed that it eliminate an ordinance that governs the system. A new ordinance, which is likely to pass the City Council soon, would replace the current one.

Voting yes would simplify the employment procedures for city workers. It would also create the non-civil service positions of assistant police chief and assistant fire chief.

Chamber of Commerce funding: The City Council is currently limited to funding the Chamber of Commerce at $2,400 each year. This ordinance was enacted by voters in 1955 who, at the behest of a community activist, decided that the council should be restricted in its pro-business funding.

Now, it is on Measure V for repeal because the charter reform commissioners, most with close ties to the chamber, recommended adding it to the ballot. The chamber would not necessarily receive more funds, but it would be able to receive as much money as groups such as the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure.

Voting yes would eliminate the cap on public funds for the Chamber of Commerce and would allow the City Council to decide how much money it grants each year.

Long-term contracts: The city is currently limited to entering into contracts or leases of no more than 25 years. That means if the city wanted to contract out its street sweeping, as it did recently, it could only sign up a company for a maximum of 25 years.

City officials said they were hampered by this. They recommended repealing the charter section that sets the limit.

Voting yes would allow the City Council to enter into contracts or leases longer than 25 years. It could lock the public into city services or tie up a piece of city-owned land that the city has agreed to lease.

Waterfront property: As it stands, the city is unable to sell publically-owned waterfront property. In the past, it has gotten around this charter section with plurality vote of the public. Those special accommodations were mostly for small or unusually-shaped parcels, and were often sold to a neighboring property owner.

The city also owns the land under the Balboa Bay Club, Beacon Bay, and the land slated for the new Marina Park development.

Now the city would like to amend the charter section so it can sell waterfront property with a vote of the public. Essentially, it is a procedural change, but it is also symbolic: public land, according to the city charter amendment, would now be able to be sold.

Voting yes would allow the city to sell public land if a plurality of the public approves.

City manager's residency: The city charter stipulates that the city manager has to live in town. But state law says municipalities cannot force employees to live within their city boundaries, so the city couldn't legally enforce the rule.

City Manager Dave Kiff is moving into a home partially funded by Newport Beach because the City Council asked him to relocate here. But his employment contract states that this charter provision is unenforceable.

Voting yes would eliminate the charter requirement for the manager to live in the city, bringing it in line with state law.

Gender-neutral references: Written in 1954, the city charter is somewhat of an anachronism. It speaks of the city manager and some other employees in the masculine sense. "He shall be responsible to the City Council for the proper administration of all affairs of the city," it reads. 

Voting yes would change the charter to read "his or hers," "him or her," "he or she," etc.

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